For some, playing with Legos may have been a great childhood pastime, but for Andy Bauch, an artist and software developer from Queens, New York, Legos are more than just toys.
Bauch utilizes hundreds, if not thousands, of Lego pieces in order to create extraordinary mosaic artworks. We had a chance to meet with him moments before his first (!) art exhibition at Art Share-LA in Downtown, Los Angeles. This Edgar Allan Faux type told us how his attempt to impress a girl turned into an amazing hobby.
Labeling Men: When did you start working on your Lego artwork?
Andy Bauch: I did one in 2010 for the first time, but then I did nothing after that until six months ago. Then I kind of picked it up for a real hobby.
L.M: Did you like Legos growing up? Is that why you're into this type of art?
A.B: I liked them, I assume, but no more or less than your average child, oddly enough. I was saying to somebody the other day at a dinner party, “like I'm really not that obsessed with Legos, you know?” And they were like, "But you are." I was like, "Oh yeah. I am…but I don't geek out about them." I realized I was backpedaling so I was like, “I can't explain it.” I think they're cool and I use them as a medium, but I'm not like a Legohead - if that's a term.
L.M: What motivated you to do the first piece? What was it about?
A.B: The first one was a combination of me being really bored at work, I was feeling like I had nothing creative going, and also sort of trying to impress a girl I was dating. Those factors somehow merged with me seeing some Lego stuff online and I made a [Roy] Lichtenstein reproduction. I tried to do some photography, you know, I got a camera and I was like, "That'll impress her." And then I sucked at it until it was just collecting dust and Legos somehow took. I was really impressed that it worked when the first one came out.
L.M: How do you design your work before putting the Lego pieces together?
A.B: I was told in ALL CAPS by my woodworking guy that I shouldn't give out any details about my process for fear of copycat artists copying my style. So, suffice it to say all my pre-build design work is done by a team of pygmy hippos, which I keep around the studio.
L.M: Why'd you start again six months ago?
A.B: I was in between start-up projects. I was working for one company trying to start something and then I was totally demoralized when one of them didn't work out and finally took the advice of friends and people who said to just start selling them.
L.M: What was your first piece after you started again?
A.B: It was a Breaking Bad tribute piece. (Click here to view the piece) I was talking to my roommates and really strategically decided that I should try to get one done in time for the finale and try to get some buzz off it, and that ended up more or less working out, actually, surprisingly.
L.M: What happened?
A.B: I made a time-lapse video of me constructing it and then I sent it out to every media outlet that I thought would want to cover it. I emailed it to 50 or 60 places and a couple of them ended up picking it up. They wrote things about it, just like, "This guy is fucking crazy who is obsessed with the show," which I did like the show a lot, but I'd already been that crazy about Legos.
L.M: How long did that piece take to create?
A.B: That one took me three weeks. They usually take just under a month total from start to finish.
L.M: How many Lego pieces was it?
A.B: It's about 2,000 pieces [writer's note: the exact number of Legos used in the piece is 1,817]. That's one of the smaller ones now, the biggest one I've done is hanging in there [the art show] and it's about 9,900 pieces.
L.M: Which one is that?
A.B: That's the reproduction of an old black and white photograph, called Steer Skull. (Click here to view the piece) It's just an old photograph landscape from the Dust Bowl era. So I got some pretty serious calluses on my fingers from pushing Legos.
L.M: How many art shows have you been part of?
A.B: None; this is the first one.
L.M: Oh, how exciting!
A.B: Yeah, I had a guy in Minneapolis who has a gallery ask me to send him a couple of pieces, so I've got two things hanging up out there, but never done a real show that I've attended or anything.
L.M: How many pieces are you showcasing tonight?
A.B: There are five in the gallery right now. There are two in sort of a side area and three main show pieces, which are all Dust Bowl era photos.
L.M: How much money do you spend on Legos?
A.B: A shit ton. I mean, each one costs me a minimum of probably 400 dollars in Legos. That's at the low end, not including the frame and other stuff. They're expensive to make. Probably why not a lot of people do this.
L.M: How does your artwork combine with what you do for a living? Being a developer, does it overlap at all?
A.B: Yeah, I mean, there's kind of a huge overlap. I think that Legos are really just like discrete, almost like a digital format with which you can create things. There are only so many colors, there are only so many shapes and you can use them to create just an infinite array of things. And I find the same to be true with computer code. I don't think people think of it that way, but it's really an analogue in that you've got these few, you know, constructs in a programming language and you can use them to create basically anything that can be built. It kind of comes from the same place. Both of them, I think, have a very rigid and sort of engineering side and they both have a creative side too.
L.M: Would you be able to tell us what you’re wearing to the show?
A.B: I’m wearing some Zara shoes and pants and a Banana Republic T-shirt. I have like 10 of those black overpriced T-shirts; I'm like the Steve Jobs of overpriced Banana Republic T-shirts.
L.M: You have a really cool outfit on; I'm all about the green pants with blue shoes. Do you find any inspiration in fashion?
A.B: Thanks! I thought these pants would be easy if someone wanted to know like, "Hey, who's that guy with this Lego thing? I want to buy them!" Then the curator could be like, "Green pants guy. Go." You know? Highlighter style. That's, I guess, my only inspiration. I like to go simple fashion wise; I don't think I have that much for an eye for it. I don't keep up. I'm always a couple of trends behind, you know, not enough trends behind to be cool, just enough to like feel a little bit less than cool.
L.M: Does your fashion style reflect your art at all?
A.B: They're both ridiculous, I guess. Sometimes unexpected and sometimes it surprises me.
L.M: How so?
A.B: Well, I don't think that there's really much of an overlap. I'm not attracted to chaos in artwork as much as I am to simplicity that just works. I guess I'm sort of the same way with fashion. I can't do stuff that's too over the top.
L.M: What is your favorite art piece that you're showcasing tonight?
A.B: I think right now I'm most excited about the one I did about Rickey the Pirate, who was a Downtown L.A. resident for a while. (Click here to view the piece) He was a homeless guy who wore a pirate hat and it's gotten a lot of fun buzz with the community over the last couple of days. I feel like most of the people that have seen it, I've posted it in Downtown L.A. sites, they’ve never seen anything built with 4,000 Legos. And everyone just loved Rickey, like he was a really cool staple in Downtown, L.A.. and when he passed away everybody kind of came together as a community. That one I think is pretty cool and how it's working out right now.
L.M: Is that what inspired you to make that piece - how much everybody liked him and how much you liked him?
A.B: I think I'm kind of inspired by the dude, you know. He had character flaws too; he was a full-on crack head and he was homeless for a while, but he was also one of the nicest guys in the streets. Like you'd run into him in the street and he was a crazy dude in a pirate's hat, but he would always help people out. I think he, on a personal level, was cool and I think he interestingly walked directly down the middle line between the homeless population, which lives a block away from all these DTLA hipsters, and yeah, you know, kind of bridged the two communities. Everybody felt comfortable with him and I think in some way it was a unifier between those groups and I think it will be seen that way in the future.
L.M: How hard is to juggle putting together thousands of Lego pieces into a masterpiece, working and having a social life?
A.B: Haha, it can be challenging. There's definitely times where I’ve had to sacrifice seeing people because I just want to go home and have an obsession to finish putting the Legos on once I get them. I mean, once I make a design and I've ordered parts, I'm never exactly sure that I’ve ordered the right number or that it's going to be, you know, everything is going to look right, so there's a big element of uncertainty while I'm waiting the weeks it takes to get the parts sometimes.
L.M: Can you share with us any funny dating stories you might have?
A.B: The worst date I went on was with a girl who turned out lived on my block and it turned out that she was the most negative person I had ever met. When the date was over, I was just so psyched to get out of there but it just kept extending itself in that we talked about going to see this band at the House of Blues at some point because they were playing that night. On the way back, as I was about to hug her goodnight, some guys in a car offered us free tickets to the show because she had a bottle opener for their beer and then she was like, "Cool! We're going to the show!" I then I had to spend like three hours in a concert with her and it was crazy. I got hit by a stage diver and it was just like an endless date with like a very negative and mediocre person. It could've been way worse…
L.M: Yeah, like you could've been murdered.
A.B: Ha, yeah. That hasn't happened to me yet either.
L.M: How did you guys end things? Just never texted her again?
A.B: No, she texted me saying she had a really good time...I think I texted her and told her that I didn't feel too deep of a connection. I try not to ghost out on people; I guess it's kind of a shitty thing.
L.M: Do you have any dating advice for surviving the L.A. dating scene?
A.B: For me, the thing that I hate the most about the L.A. dating scene is the flakiness of people, especially in the dating world. It's really annoying. I'll reiterate what I said, you know, try to be cool and tell somebody what you're thinking instead of peace out and stop replying to their texts. I think that kind of puts some good karma back in the L.A. dating pool.
L.M: I think that's all the questions we have. Is there anything else you want to talk about regarding your art, job? Anything we missed?
A.B: Uhm, do you think we can talk about my childhood a little bit? Just life?
L.M: Sure, yeah. Oh! I thought you were going to share a story about how much you liked Legos when you were little?
A.B: Haha, I got some issues that I'd like to get out…No, I'm good. This was fun!
Check out the rest of Andy Bauch’s work at www.hippobricks.com.
Interview by Karen Guzelian